By Tiffany L. Rehbein
Chalk and chatter.
First-year head coach Lisa Handley chalks the plays, a 6-2 offense, for one, and the MSU-Northern Skylights volleyball team talks the talk.
Weve had a good week of practice, Handley said. We need to go there with the enthusiasm we had in this weeks practice. I want to see them talk the way they talked in practice.
The Skylights, 0-2 overall, travel to Dillon to take part in the Frontier Conference Invitational Volleyball Tournament Friday and Saturday, and they open pool play at 1 p.m. against non-conference University of Mary. The matches are the first Frontier Conference matches of the season for the Skylights.
In addition, Carroll College, Montana Tech, Rocky Mountain College, Westminster College and non-conference Sheridan College and Medicine Hat College will be present.
At the Frontier Conference scrimmage two weeks ago, the Western Montana Bulldogs defeated the Skylights in two matches, 2-15, 15-11, 9-15 and 11-15, 3-15, to win the championship. The Skylights finished in the No. 2 spot at the scrimmage and face the Bulldogs at 3 p.m. Friday.
Last weekend, the Skylights opened the regular season and dropped matches to NCAA Div.-II University of North Dakota and Div.-III Concordia College.
Practices have been upbeat and enthusiastic, Handley said. The players are just starting to make smarter decisions when it comes to attacking the net.
Senior co-captain Melanie Baack of Fort Benton is just one of those attackers on the left side in the offense. Last weekend, Baack had a team-high 27 digs from her new position. She also tallied 12 kills against the University of North Dakota.
Junior co-captain Connie Fritz will work the right side in the offense. Fritz tallied 20 digs against Concordia.
Heather Hammonds, a 6-foot-one middle hitter from California hit a .273 against Concordia. Sophomore setter Jessica Gerenz had a team-high 20 assists in the match. Gabrielle Chamblis, setter, tallied 15 assists against UND.
Six-foot-one Adrienne Poplawski posts a front row threat and she notched 12 kills at Minnesota. Senior Jennifer Sanders, sophomore Janelle Gillies of Havre and junior Sommer Guenther are defensive specialists for the Skylights.
Junior Sara McMillan and 6-foot-two freshman Jaylee Wacker are competing for a solid middle blocker position. Sophomore Lyndi Hostetter rounds out the Skylights roster.
Hostetter was absent from the Frontier Conference scrimmage for personal reasons, but the strong net player smashed 11 kills against Concordia.
The Skylights look to improve their serve receive and hitting accuracy at Dillon, Handley said. Against Concordia, the Skylights had a .113 attack percentage and 1.9 receiving percentage.
We need to go down there and play with passion, Handley said.
At the tournament, pool play kicks off the tournament with the best 3 out of 5 games claiming the match. Power pool play begins Friday at 7 p.m.
In power pool play, teams finishing first in their pool will be placed in Pool No. 1, second place teams will be placed in Pool No. 2 and third place teams in Pool No. 3.
The top eight teams from power pool will be placed in a single elimination tournament, the ninth place team does not advance. The top four teams advance into the championship playoff bracket.